It’s Thanksgiving Day, and finally, after watching your first football game of the day, it’s time to eat. We waited all day for this moment as the smell of roasting meat and baking pies filled the air all day. Other than a light snack to tide us over and beer during the game, we starved ourselves in preparation for this moment. The ornamental placement of food is complete while our extended family surrounds the table. It’s go time!
All of a sudden, as we anxiously reach for a coveted turkey leg, the proceedings come to a screeching halt. Someone, probably our mother-in-law, blurts out, “Before we eat, let’s go around the table and say what we’re thankful for this year.” Seriously! Marge gets a penalty flag for a delay of the game.
Now, aside from the hangriness aggravated by this veiled pleasantry, we feel pressured to come up with a gem of thankfulness. Hoping to avoid the cliche answer of wife, kids, family, blah, blah, blah, we stress over our response. Luckily we don’t have to go first, but the round-robin quickly approaches our station at the table. It’s our turn, and we meekly announce, “I’m thankful for the whole family gathered around this table.” Wow! Somebody call Hallmark.
Why is it so hard for guys to feel and admit a sense of gratitude? How could a daily gratitude practice improve our lives?
Regularly practicing gratitude reduces stress and helps us overcome trauma. Several studies on post-traumatic stress disorder in war veterans and 9/11 survivors determined that gratitude contributes to overcoming anxiety and depression. Recognizing what we’re thankful for leads to mental resilience when we experience difficult times in our lives.
When we’re grateful for the things we have in life, like relationships, we’re more likely to take better care of our health. Practicing gratitude leads to a longer life because we eat better, go to the gym, and visit the doctor regularly. Studies show that grateful people report fewer complaints of physical pain and feel healthier than their peers.
Want to feel less envious and resentful towards other people? Gratitude helps eliminate the negative emotions that are toxic to our well-being. People who report feeling thankful also describe greater feelings of overall happiness in their lives.
Opening a door for someone and saying thank you helps increase your circle of friendships. Studies show that the simple act of politeness makes any new acquaintance more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. Acknowledging other people’s contributions to our lives is a form of gratitude.
Gratitude improves empathy and reduces aggression. When we’re happier about our lives, we’re less likely to act out when someone behaves in a less than kind manner towards us. We consider what another person might be experiencing before we react negatively. Getting cut off in traffic or a rude person behind the counter at the DMV become less of a big deal to us.
Being grateful reduces our need for comparisons to others. There’s less need to keep up with the Joneses when we appreciate what we have in life. Instead of living in constant competition with others, thankful people are more able to enjoy the accomplishments of others. We begin aspiring to do what they do and not just have what they have.
One way to establish a regular gratitude practice is by journaling each night at bedtime. Not only will we take the time to write down our thoughts and clear our heads, but we’ll also avoid the blue light of electronics. Ten to fifteen minutes per night is all it takes to feel better and sleep more soundly.
Practicing gratitude shouldn’t be as difficult as most men think it is. We don’t need to make a big show of thanks with syrupy sentiment or over-the-top gestures. Most men would rather buy a gift for their wives instead of simply saying thank you. We fail to realize how much it means to the people we love when we show heartfelt gratitude.
A sense of everyday thankfulness is more personal than outward. The first steps are thinking and feeling grateful. Possessing a sense of gratitude makes expressing it much more manageable.
This year, when it’s our turn at the table, take a moment and actually look around. How did we get here? Who helped us along the way? Where would we be without them?
Of course, get that turkey leg on our plate first.
Thank you for reading. Happy Thanksgiving.
Take care, even down there.
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